Skip to Content

CEO Daily: Trump needs a big moment at Monday’s debate

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

With Hillary Clinton putting some padding back into her lead over Donald Trump this week, the pressure will be on the Republican nominee to shake up the race in their first debate on Monday night. Says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, half the bipartisan team that conducts the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll now showing Clinton with a six-point national edge: “For him to get from where he is to winning, something—some spark, something that hasn’t happened—would have to happen.”

Is Trump ready? He appears to be preparing for his debut general election face-off the same way he did for the primary debates, which is to say he isn’t preparing much at all. And in case there was any question about whether he’s mastered his policy brief since clinching the nomination, consider his performance nine days ago onstage at the Waldorf Astoria before the Economic Club of New York. In a “fireside chat” that concluded the event, hedge fund billionaire John Paulson asked the candidate to summarize his economic plan and quantify how much each of its components would contribute to the 3.5 percent growth Trump promises to unleash. It was hardly a gotcha question — Trump had just moments earlier delivered a speech on that plan, one that Paulson helped craft as an advisor to the campaign. For the concision, coherence and clarity that make a crisp debate performance, Trump’s answer left a lot to be desired. It’s too long to quote in full here, but this is how it started:

“I watch the world and I look at China and other countries. And if China goes down with GDP to 7 percent or even 8 percent, it’s like they’ll have a revolution. And then what do they do? They start devaluing, devaluing, they do all sorts of things, and they get it back on track one way or the other. And I’ve had friends come to me that have been devastated, people that are manufacturers, that are great manufacturers, very successful people, but they become less and less successful because they can’t beat the system. In this way, too, it’s a rigged system. And they’re almost doing well and then, boom, there’s a massive devaluation in China or other countries. And there are plenty of other countries out there. Some are actually hurting China now. But the fact is when they have 7 percent, and you see it when they start dropping to 7 or 8 percent, they consider that to be a disaster. And yet we’re stuck at 1 percent, probably the real number is 1 percent but certainly no more than 2 percent. And we try and learn to live with it. We can’t do that anymore.”

But the Republican primary debates proved a winning performance is at least as much about animal spirits as policy mastery. As The Atlantic’s David Frum wrote after Trump romped over the field in the second GOP bout: “We remain primates, who seek from our pack-leaders qualities of both prudence and strength. We don’t make those assessments with the conscious parts of our brains, but from places more primordial. Trump has rocketed to first place by deliberately humiliating his competitors.” Clinton has studied those tapes. Monday’s meeting will reveal what she’s learned — and whether Trump can repeat the trick against a single adversary bent on laying him low.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

Top News

Cruz endorses Trump

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — who was the last Republican rival standing against Trump this spring, and who pointedly refused to endorse him at the party’s July convention — announced Friday he is throwing his support behind the GOP nominee. In the course of their primary battle, Trump launched a litany of often-acid attacks against Cruz and his family, and the firebrand Texan countered by calling Trump unfit for the presidency and then taking what he called a principled stand against him once he secured the nod. Cruz now says he was motivated to fall in line by a desire to avert a Clinton presidency and reassured by the Trump campaign’s commitment to appointing only conservative Supreme Court justices. Cruz faces some tough politics back home, with prominent Republicans maneuvering to defeat him in his 2018 Senate primary.  New York Times

Clinton wants to hike the estate tax

Clinton is calling for hiking the tax on the biggest estates to 65 percent, up from 40 precent, while lowering to $3.5 million the cap on the value that could be passed along to heirs tax free. The proposal would generate $260 billion over a decade. Trump has called for eliminating the tax altogether.  Wall Street Journal

• Trump isn’t sinking down-ballot Republicans

Since Trump clinched the nomination, Democrats have been hoping and watching for signs such a historically unpopular standard-bearer would start dragging down those Republicans sharing the ticket with him. So far, the anti-Trump wave shows no signs of materializing. Democrats insist it might yet, especially in House races, because those contests typically take shape in the final weeks of the election season and the party has only begun investing in ads linking vulnerable GOP incumbents to Trump.  Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

Trump advisor probed for Russian ties

U.S. intelligence officials are investigating Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, looking for evidence he’s opened up a backchannel to Russian officials. Multiple sources tell Yahoo the officials are looking into allegations that Page, who has extensive business ties to the country, has discussed the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia if Trump wins the presidency. Senior members of Congress have been briefed on Page’s activities. Though Trump himself named Page as one of his foreign policy advisers, a spokesman this week said the former Merrill Lynch investment banker has no role with the campaign.  Yahoo News

Clinton adds to her team of CEO backers

The Clinton campaign has made a priority of recruiting top business leaders, aiming to use the executives as validators for Clinton’s economic program. And the campaign added 40 names to list on Friday, rolling out a tech-heavy bevy of new corporate endorsers that includes PayPal chairman John Donahoe, Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Opower founder Alex Laskey, and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure.  Fortune

Trump vs. Clinton, Broadway-style 

Trump and Clinton may be facing off at Hofstra University in Long Island on Monday night. But what if they took their debate into the city, specifically to Broadway, and conducted it as if it were the hit musical Hamilton? Manhattan Institute fellow Oren Cass imagined the scenario. And if the real-life Clinton doesn’t mind deploying rhyming zingers, she could do worse than to borrow this one: “To make our country great again let’s not kick out Latinos / Just anyone so dumb he loses money on casinos.”  National Review